Spanning from 1775 to 1783, the American Revolutionary War is one of the most important conflicts and pieces of history to the United States of America. The American Revolution granted America independence from Britain through years of brutal fighting and bloodshed all due to the rising tensions between the American colonies and the British government. Starting with the battles at Lexington and Concord in 1775 and ending with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, officially ending the war and giving America its independence, the American Revolutionary War was a war fought by many participants, including many of the African Americans who are less known for their contributions during the war. African Americans had a very substantial role on both sides of the War of Independence for they fought for the side that granted them the most promising path to freedom. African Americans like Crispus Attucks and Peter Salem, are ones out of many who have greatly contributed to America becoming a sovereign country.
Considering to be the very first casualty and the very start of the American Revolution, Crispus Attucks was one out of five men who were killed when shots were fired by British soldiers during an event called the ‘Boston Massacre’ back in 1770. Beforehand, the British had created pieces of legislation like The Sugar Act in 1764, The Stamp Act in 1765, and The Townshend Acts in 1767 to make the colonists pay high taxes and represented them in Britain leading to the colonists to be extremely enraged at the lack of self-governance they had.(1) Among those enraged were Crispus Attucks and numerous other men. Crispus Attucks and the rest of the patriot mob started throwing snowballs and debris at the sentry in front of the Customs office. A group of British soldiers came to support the heckled guard and began firing shots into the crowd. Three people died immediately while 2 people were injured but had later died, amongst the victims was Attucks. Attucks has been noted to be a martyr for the American Revolution for being the first to rebel against the British soldiers in British-ruled America. Attucks was a Black and Native sailor who was at risk of being forced into the British Navy.(2) With the growing tensions between the sailors/colonists and the British troops, the sailors/colonists’ anger was starting to hit a boiling point back then in the 1760s and 1770s. Attucks was the man that ignited the Revolutionary War to start and encouraged the American people to fight for their country’s independence.
Born into slavery circa 1750, Peter Salem was another well-known African American patriot who contributed to the success of America’s independence. After being sold to Major Lawson Buckminster from Jeremiah Belknap, Buckminster gave Salem his freedom when he had enlisted in the Continental Army. Early on during the war, African Americans volunteered to participate in the war but were rejected by Washington because he found it unnecessary to enlist African-Americans regardless if they were free or slaves. Many had feared that giving slaves guns would allow a slave insurrection to occur and some slave owners didn’t want to give up their slaves which who they considered to be their property. But after seeing that he was facing a personnel shortage and that slaves were beginning to join the British, Washington recanted his original statement and allowed African Americans to serve in 1775, which had been the time Salem enlisted in the Continental Army. Salem served as a soldier at the war’s first few battles in Concord and later took part in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He is credited for fatally wounding British Major John Pitcairn in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Later on, he served in many other battles during the Revolutionary War like the Battle of Saratoga and the Battle of Stony Point. In his honor for his service to America, after he died in August 1816 in Massachusetts, in 1886, his town, Framingham, erected a monument at the Old Burying Ground.(3)
Crispus Attucks and Peter Salem are just two out of many unsung African American heroes that contributed to the Revolutionary War. Without these men, defeating the British at every battle would be a lot more difficult than necessary. African Americans have fought side by side with White people in many wars for America. But all too often, we never get to hear the stories of those African-Americans who have fought these wars. With these accomplishments, African Americans today can look back at the courageous history and actions of these men and realize that they are brave men who fought for what they wanted and believed in.